The five-day working week has been the norm in Britain since the early 19th century. But there has been a lot of talk about the potential of reducing the working week to four days, giving workers more time away from their jobs.
The case for a four-day week is a simple matter of the changing nature of the workforce. Thanks to technology, the way we work has sped up significantly, and some believe a five-day working week is no longer necessary. The five-day working week was born during a time where factory work was the norm, but today office jobs are the new factory jobs, and more working hours does not necessarily equal more productivity.
What might happen if your business scrapped the traditional five-day working week? And how could this be achieved?
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Four-Day Working Week
Before you decide if the four-day working week is right for your business, consider the advantages and disadvantages:
Companies that have trailed a four-day working week have reported significant boosts in employee productivity. Microsoft tested it out for a week in August 2019 and found that productivity jumped 40%. In New Zealand, a trial was so successful that they made the shorter workweek a permanent option for their employees. It makes sense; the less working days there are, people are more likely to spend their time working more efficiently to get work completed.
A four-day working week can reduce overall costs. If the business is closed one extra day a week, office maintenance fees could be reduced by 20%. Employees would also spend less commuting to work, saving costs for them as well.
With less stress and a higher capacity for a work/life balance, employees will be happier and healthier, benefiting the business overall.
Better Recruitment and Retention
Happier, healthier employees means an increase in loyalty to your business, helping your retention rates. And when looking for new employees, a four-day working week is an enticing incentive to bring in the best people.
Doesn’t Suit All Businesses
Not every business is going to be able to introduce a four-day working week; it will only work for those ready to re-adapt their entire business to this new way of working.
Increased Hours, Increased Stress
Many companies on a four-day working week would still expect the same number of hours worked and would extend shifts to make up the time. Employees might find it difficult to adjust their schedules and family obligations around longer working days.
Is a Four-Day Working Week Right for Your Business?
Implementing a four-day working week isn’t a simple schedule tweak. It needs to be done at an organisational level, and this will be more complicated for certain industries. A compressed working week may create scheduling difficulties and put pressure on employees. However, when coupled with flexitime or job sharing, it could work for many businesses. A trial is the best way to find out if a four-day working week is feasible for your company. Here are some other considerations:
Pick Your Day
Selecting the right day to give your employees off will require some research. Take a look at where the ebbs and flows are in your business, when do your employees get the most and least amount of work done? Choosing your least productive day can be a good starting point.
Additionally, consider a rota system, so the business doesn’t have to close one day of the working week, but employees can still benefit from the four-day working week system. In return, the amount of holiday entitlement will likely be reduced to account for this extra day off a week, so some employees may choose to continue a five-day working week, allowing you to continue operating as normal with someone always at the helm.
Respond to Demand
According to a YouGov survey, 63% of Britons support a four-day working week. Flexibility and the desire for a work/life balance are more important to British workers than ever. As more businesses implement flexible working and four-day working weeks, you could see your best employees poached to work elsewhere if you remain stubborn with your nine-to-five, Monday to Friday working week. Even if a four-day week is not feasible for your business, flexible and remote-working are viable alternatives that more and more working people are searching for in their careers.
Focus on Productivity
If you get your employees focused on what is being achieved and how to manage your expectations of them, then the transition to a four-day working week can be achieved. A 40-hour working week is not always necessary to complete the work that needs doing, and when employees know they only have four days to get their work done, they are likely to be more efficient, driven and goal-orientated.
Whether a four-day working week becomes the norm in for UK businesses is uncertain, but it is certain that small businesses are going to need to be flexible to the idea in the future.